South Placer seniors give back to communities

From libraries to Meals on Wheels, volunteers are helpin
By: Laura O'Brien, Gold Country News Service correspondent
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How to help

Seniors First:; (530) 889-9500

Placer Food Bank:; (916) 783-0481

Twelve Bridges Library:; (916) 434-2410

From visiting home-bound individuals to mending library books, area seniors who volunteer said they enjoy contributing to the health of their communities.

Sue Batz, 69, and her husband, Dave, 71 have volunteered with Placer Food Bank’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, which took place in Roseville in February, for the last three years.

“My husband and I really just enjoy being of service,” Batz said. “We enjoy the interaction with people, and we just really feel like it’s an important part of our lives to help make other people’s lives better.”

Batz and her husband had experience working at events through their past work in the trade show and conference business. But past work experience is not a requirement for a potential volunteer. A couple of free hours a week and a desire to bring a smile to another person are the only prerequisites for many volunteer opportunities.

Volunteers donated 8,500 hours to Placer Food Bank last year, according to Mary Towne, a public relations representative. Opportunities at the food bank include food sorting and packing, driving trucks, community outreach, office support and special events.


Seniors helping seniors

Because they have the necessary free time, retired or semi-retired individuals comprise a large majority of volunteers at some organizations, such as Seniors First. The organization provides meals, rides and companionship, among other services, to seniors in Western Placer County, according to its website.

Seniors First administers the area Meals on Wheels program. Of the roughly 300 volunteers distributing meals, about 90 percent are over age 50, said Chelsea Bullen, coordinator of senior nutrition.

Volunteer Carol Hoskins coordinates two routes in the Sun City Roseville area.

“I worked 45 years and I’m used to being active,” said Hoskins, 70, who has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for 14 years. “I’ve been blessed with a lot of advantages, and so this is kind of my work now.

“It’s just a good feeling to help people and they’re all so appreciative,” she said.

Jeff Holland volunteers with another Seniors First program, the “friendly visitor” program, which pairs volunteers with home-bound seniors in need of companionship.

Holland described his experience visiting one client, starting when the man was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The client’s wife referred him to the program because she thought he could use some male companionship. Holland and the man have enjoyed activities together such as ordering fast food from the drive-through window.

“We’re still able to talk and communicate and, even in his advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, I think that’s still important to him,” said Holland, 62, who lives in Roseville and is retired from his job as Sutter County superintendent of schools.

“Now, working with older seniors, it’s a whole different world, but it’s very much like teaching again, so it’s been a wonderful experience for me,” he said.

Keith McKee, of Auburn, a volunteer in the door-to-door rides program for Seniors First, agreed with Holland that volunteering is as beneficial to him as it is to his clients. McKee drives seniors to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores.

“I’ve met some really nice people – interesting backgrounds and stories,” said McKee, 70, who is semi-retired. “I feel like I get as much out of it as they do.”


Serving the community

Rather than helping individuals, some volunteers focus on a community-wide level.

The Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln used 400 volunteer hours in a recent month, said Phyllis Brown, volunteer coordinator for the library.

She said individuals may volunteer at the library on a drop-in basis rather than committing to a set schedule. Preparing new books for circulation, emptying book receptacles and returning books to the shelves comprise the meat of the available volunteer work, but some less-exerting activities are available, such as book repair.

“They still use the Dewey Decimal System in libraries in the nonfiction section, so you use your mind while you’re doing this,” Brown said. “Some of the volunteers have told me that that’s why they like working in that section, because it does have some exercise aspects, both physical and mental.”

Casey Clark, 69, of Lincoln, has volunteered with the library since it opened in 2007.

“The library probably couldn’t function very well without volunteers,” Clark said. “There’s just not enough paid staff to do all the work that’s necessary.”

Karen Allen, 63, helps with shelving.

“You do it at your own pace,” Allen said. “They don’t have books on the bottom shelf, so it’s fairly easy just to alphabetize the books and put them in the places they belong.”